Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Four great merlots for meat-sauce pasta nights

By Jessica Yadegaran
Wednesday, April 28th, 2010 at 5:02 pm in Corkheads.

Seven Hills Merlot

Last night, I got home from work famished. I dumped some ground turkey in a pan, hit it with garlic, oregano, salt, pepper, tomato sauce and chopped onions, and put the farfalle on to boil.

Natch, I popped open an Italian wine, a Dolcetto D’Alba. Turned out to be corked. Disappointed and very annoyed, I did what any respectable wine writer would do. I grabbed my corkscrew and opened eight bottles of merlot.

I tasted through all of them – ranging from 2006 to 2008 vintages and hailing from the Central Coast, Sonoma, and Washington – as the juices in the meat sauce started coming together with the herbs and spices. These were the ones that tasted the best with the pasta dish I was cooking.

2007 Anselmo Vineyards, Hollister ($40): This was the standout merlot of the eight I sampled. It was just the kind of juicy, plummy merlot you crave with a white meat sauce. It had chocolately smooth tannins.

Candor Lot 2, Central Coast: The folks at Hope Family Wines make this merlot by blending multiple vintages together, and I think it’s how the wine achieves the complexity of structure and finish I tasted. $20.

2006 Fernwood, Santa Cruz ($30): If you like lighter bodied wine with a bit more acidity, try this bottling made from four small vineyards in Los Altos, Saratoga, and Monte Sereno. It had lower alcohol, 13.7 percent, than its counterparts in the tasting. The peppery notes went well with my meat sauce.

2007 Seven Hills, Walla Walla ($28): This had the same alcohol level as the Fernwood, but it retained the deep, rich color and body that is so indicative of Washington merlots. The fruit hails from one of the oldest vineyards in the Valley.

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